It’s now becoming an annual tradition for me to head down to Brighton in the middle of April for marathon weekend. Since I no longer have any stupid ideas about actually running said marathon, my head had filled with altogether more pleasant notions about drinking on the beach, swimming in the sea and having a little potter around the 10k route in the sun. These plans were thoroughly thwarted by my old nemesis Weather. I reluctantly removed my swimming costume and suncream from my bag and replaced it with as much cold weather gear as one can fit in a standard Brighton Marathon baggage bag. Since it costs upwards of £200 per night to stay in Brighton during marathon weekend, I had the bright idea idea of staying in the Eastbourne Travelodge instead – with the added bonus that it is right next to Eastbourne parkrun which would provide a rare and valuable E for the alphabet challenge. It was minus two when I boarded the 6:20am train from St Pancras and I must admit that I was fast losing enthusiasm.
Eastbourne parkrun isn’t really in Eastbourne, it’s in a place called Hampden Park which is basically a nondescript industrial estate on the A22. It has a Travelodge and a Toby Carvery and a Morrisons and that’s about it. Oh, yes, it has a park too, thankfully. The park is called Shinewater Park, a fairly standard mishmash of paths, trails, trees, reeds, grass, etc round a lake. Beware, it does not have toilets!! There is a summer and a winter version of the course and this was the first week of the year using the summer course. From what I can work out, the winter version is a slightly less scenic out and back all on tarmac and gravel, whereas the summer – which had just come into effect this week – is a circular one lapper with a little flourish through a meadow at the beginning and end. The meadow is certainly nice to look at, especially on the way back with the Downs visible in the distance over a bed of reeds, but it is also a horrible running surface – slippery grass! Between the two grass related ordeals, there are about 3km of gravel or tarmac paths, with a couple of interesting features like an underpass and a bridge. Only a small part is proper smooth tarmac, the rest is either very holey tarmac or good gravel trail. Although the course is pancake flat, the mixed surfaces slowed me down more than a hill would have, and the start was also very congested (and slightly chaotic, as at the point when the run director said “go” I had no idea which way I was actually supposed to run and had to wait until the rest of the field formed a coherent pattern of movement and follow suit). I therefore wouldn’t recommend this one for anyone PB hunting (my time was 35:59) but if you want a nice look at some scenic hills without actually having to run up them, then it should be perfect for you.
After parkrun I failed to convince the Travelodge person to check me in early, so we skulked off to the Toby Carvery for an All You Can Eat breakfast. I do not recommend this establishment. The woman I ordered from had no idea whether the vegetarian sausages were vegan, or in fact what vegan actually meant and resorted to listing every single ingredient, eventually coming to “milk”, but this was academic as they didn’t have any veggie sausages in the end anyway. I waited so long for mushrooms that it was practically lunchtime and after one plate of greasy mushrooms, cold tomatoes and sad baked beans, I didn’t have much enthusiasm for a second.
Eventually, after finally checking into the Travelodge we headed to Brighton to pick up numbers. Fuck me, it was cold. As we queued in the number tent, the heavens opened and hail descended. We remained in the numbers tent until the desire to stay dry was exceeded by the desire to get out of said tent and do something less boring. Notions about sitting on the beach and enjoying the sun were quickly crushed, and we abandoned the beach for a perusal of the vegan options Brighton has to offer. That is one thing I have to say for Brighton – it has always been ahead of its time when it comes to embracing the avocado and I’ll never starve to death there! We went to a place called What The Pitta where I had a vegan doner kebab and then some kind of cafe I have forgotten the name of for vegan chocolate brownies, because obviously running 15km over two days justifies consuming 59 million calories and will in no way make me fat.
After all this excitement I was feeling a little bit tired so we headed back to Eastbourne where we failed to find cider in a 24 hour garage and Ken got overexcited by finding a way into the Travelodge that didn’t involve risking his life on the A22. Our lives are just one rock n roll thrill after another.
(Part 2 to follow)